August 22, 2011

Chittagong Hill Tracts: The Term ĎAdivasií Removed From All Governmental Documents

The Bangladeshi government has replaced the word Adivasi (indigenous) with Khudro Nritattik Jonogosthi (ethnic minorities) in all laws, policies and government publications - reducing the legal status and protection of the Chittagong Hill Tracts people.

Below is an article published by CHT news.

It is reported that the Government of Bangladesh has decided to erase the term ‘indigenous’ from all the laws, policies, documents and publications of Bangladesh Government. Even this term will be rubbed out from all the textbooks and curriculums. The term ‘Adivasi’ (indigenous peoples) will be replaced by the term ‘Khudro Nritattik Jonogosthi’ (ethnic minorities) according to the 15th amendment of the Constitution of Bangladesh.

The decision was taken at inter-ministry meeting held on last 21 July 2011 where representatives from Prime Minister’s office, Foreign Ministry, Ministry for CHT Affairs, Military Headquarters and Intelligence Departments were present in the meeting.

It is learnt that the proposal of replacement of the term ‘Adivasi’ would be submitted to the Cabinet. When the approval from the Cabinet would be received, the term ‘ethnic minorities’ would be installed erasing the term ‘indigenous peoples’ from all the papers of ministries and institutions of the government. In addition, there was a decision in the meeting that instead of accepting any foreign-funded NGO projects titling ‘development of indigenous peoples’ such projects can be accepted under the title of ‘development of ethnic minorities’ through the Ministry for CHT Affairs, Economic Relation Division and Bureau of NGOs.

In the meeting, the Foreign Ministry opined that all the people living in Bangladesh territory are indigenous. As the tribes (upajati) and the ethnic minorities living in Chittagong Hill Tracts who have come to this region during 17th Century, they are ‘migrants’. And because, the British people did not settle down in Indian subcontinent parallel to America or Australia, there is no option of mentioning any particular group of population separately as ‘Adivasi’. Also, the word ‘Adivasi’ has not been used in CHT Peace Accord. Rather, the term ‘upajati’ (sub-nation) has been used in the Accord. So, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs opined that the phrase ‘Khudro Nritattik Jonogosthi’ should be used instead in the light of 15th amendment.

On last 4 August 2011, the Foreign Ministry, in a letter, asked ERD to report urgently on whether there is any ongoing project titled ‘development of indigenous peoples’ in Chittagong Hill Tracts. Scrutinizing all the documents of all the ongoing foreign-funded projects, ERD informed that though there are different going on projects of  Asian Development Bank, Japan Government, Norway and the UN organizations -UNDP and UNICEF, there is no such project titled ‘development of indigenous peoples’. 

It was also learnt that the government had taken unbending stance as the inhabitants of CHT were recognized as ‘indigenous peoples’ in the report of UNPFII. Because, if the inhabitants of that area get the recognition as indigenous peoples, they will get various safeguards by various international laws which will go against the interest of Bangladesh. In such circumstances, Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni informed the stance of the government about indigenous peoples’ issues. Now, this matter will be submitted at the Cabinet meeting. When it will be approved at the Cabinet, government will issued gazette notification. No individual or institution will be able to mention the inhabitants of CHT as ‘Adivasi’ after that. They will have to be mentioned as ‘Khudro Nritattik Jonogosthi’ (ethnic minorities).

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